Breastfeeding, I’m at a crossroads with you.

Breastfeeding. My midwife once told me, “boob can solve 99% of problems” and I’ve never forgotten that. Summer is a night time boob addict, if you didn’t already know, and for most of the night she sleeps within an inch of my boob, feeding on and off to soothe herself back to sleep. I find it the most beautiful and the most difficult thing about my parenting journey with her. The closeness is magical but I often feel trapped too, not being able to sleep deeply or spread out as I please, worrying I’ll never get a night away because this kid is going to be sharing my bed forever. Yet strangely, I almost think I’d miss her if she wasn’t there because sharing my bed with both my husband and my baby has just become my new normal.

Breastfeeding is a constant contradiction of emotions, feeling joy, happiness and gratitude one minute then frustration, resentment and longing for freedom the next. “Boob can solve 99% of problems” is definitely a motto I live by and I tend to offer the comfort of a little boob when Summer gets fussy, even if logically, she can’t possibly be hungry because you can never really know, can you? Breastfeeding, even if for only a minute can offer a baby instant comfort, solving their baby problem quickly and easily, but this has also left me feeling unable to leave her confidently for more than a few hours, for fear that without boob on tap, she’ll struggle and I will then feel guilty, of course.

Summer is approaching 8 months old and regularly eating three meals a day and so for the last few days I haven’t offered her a feed after her morning nap, as I usually do and do you know something….she’s been absolutely fine! A little snack and a drink from a cup and she’s no more or less happy or grizzly than if she had had a feed. Trust. It’s all about trust, don’t you think? Trusting your instincts, trusting when the time is right, trusting that they are ready, too. It feels like a big step though, for me anyway. Stepping back to test whether she’ll be OK, whether I’ll be OK and whether after 8 months of being pretty much attached to the hip *boob*, I can finally let go a little bit more.

This little taste of my freedom returning made me feel a little bit excited. Oh OK, a lot excited. “I could actually leave her for 4 hours,” I declared to Ben, getting carried away in my mind with what I could do with that time. Then what happens? A grizzly baby full of cold, tired, grouchy, not wanting to eat her breakfast. I sit down and start feeding her presuming it’ll be a quick 2 minutes before she gets distracted or I’m needed elsewhere. But instead, she drifts off to sleep and I realise how powerful this connection is. I realise how many of her feeds are cut short because I don’t allow myself the luxury of just sitting there with her because, well, you know, second baby and all that. I realise that her bed time feeds are usually rushed or chaotic because there’s a tired/hyperactive toddler needing me too and sadly, I can’t be in two places at once. I realise that as much as I’m ready to start regaining my freedom, I also want more of these moments. The moments where the world dissolves around you as you send a baby off to sleep with your body. The moments where the journey of breastfeeding is totally worth the struggle and the sacrifice. The moments where I’m humbled by the simplicity of it all yet grateful that this is something I get to do.

When I breastfed Jasmine, I was constantly in awe of it all. How my body was producing milk round the clock which she was drinking and which made her grow. I soaked it all up and revelled in what my body was doing. It still amazes me, it’s just that this time I’ve taken it for granted more, distracted by an ever increasing busy-ness and a desire to carve out even more pockets of precious time to myself.

So now, as we move forward, I’m going to strive to enjoy the balance. The balance of baby steps towards some more freedom, yet the magic of feeding and all the problems it really can solve. Breastfeeding is not a linear journey. There is no clear finish nor does there need to be and of course, to a large extent, it’s not necessarily up to me either!

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